Hello, please bear with me, I'm a forum virgin. But I had found this site really helpful when I was deciding to buy my HG20 so thought I would join up and see if my experiences could help too.
I needed a video camera for my degree, and I wanted one as close to professional as I could get on a student budget. I found £500 to spend on the HG20. I've got a Canon 450D SLR, which has been (touchwood) faultless, and had convinced myself that they were a 'safe' brand, good quality, amazing images, warranty, etc. I read through a lot of forums like this, and reviews, and decided that I would risk the software issues I had heard about because it seemed like such a good camera.
With retrospect I probably didn't need to venture into High Definition; having never had another video camera to compare it to except one from the 80s, I probably wouldn't have noticed that much difference, especially as I don't even have a High Definition TV. Indulgent investment?- Yes. Waste-of-my-time?...well I have yet to even see any of my videos on anything but the camera's LCD screen so maybe when I manage to screen my videos on something I'll feel it was worth all that extra money.
It arrived, I charged the unit and the battery as stated in the manual, and got going. And yes, it really does takes beautiful videos. I've read a lot about problems in low light, but I found filming inside in low (domestic) lights was still really good; I experienced no noise and thought the detail remarkable. I did try it in night mode outside, under street lights in the dark, and that was pretty blurry and noisy, the camera didn't keep up very well at all. But, I was actually looking for that effect in that specific instance, although if I hadn't wanted it to look blurred and distorted I wouldn't try to film moving in the dark outside again. Nonetheless, in good light the video is stunning. I think the intelligent focus, while perhaps not as quick as some might demand, was actually very good. While I liked the idea of having an excellent manual focus (of which this camera does not have), I have tried both and am much happier with the results of the intelligent focus, and its much easier.
As far as the technical facilities, there's a lot I haven't tried, and as a student a lot I'm still learning. I don't feel like I'm enough of an expert on aperture and shutter speed to comment. I found the menu laid it all out clearly, and being always dubious about touchscreens I'm glad it didn't have one. The viewfinder issue seems quite important to some people, but in my experience with the camera so far I haven't missed it, and have already achieved a lot with the LCD screen I wouldn't have been able to with just a viewfinder.
I would give this camera top marks for ease of use and image quality. The problems started when I tried to actually get the videos off of the unit. As I have mentioned, I was aware of this before I bought the camera. I had checked on the Canon website for compatibility beforehand, and it had appeared to be compatible. In as much as my computer knows the camera is plugged in, then yes, it is compatible. But I would really recommend anyone who does this check beforehand also checks the compatibility of this format with the versions on software they have. I have a Macbook OS X Version 10.4.11 with a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 1GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM (hopefully this might mean more to you than me?). The people I've talked to (pleae correct me if I'm wrong) say that my computer is physically capable of dealing with AVCHD (i.e. all High Definition video camera formats), and the HG20. But my programs are, apparently, hopelessly out of date. I only have the Adobe Suite CS2 and my iMovie(HD apparently) is Version 6, whereas I've heard it need to be CS4 and at least version 9 for iMovie, i.e. iLife. All extremely confusing. I've downladed a few things, and I got a copy of Final Cut Express Version 4, which also doesn't seem to recognise the videos on the camera. Now I'm battling downloaded copies of iLife and Toast just to try and even see what my videos look like on screen. I'm having to arrange to borrow some software off people to try and deal with it.
All that aside, I would have still defended my HG20. It still took amazing videos, and I was sure I could figure out the format without buying a new computer built to deal with all this ACVHD, blue-ray stuff. I didn't really care that it was a bit fuzzy at night, or that the battery ran out after an hour, or that you rather oddly had to be connected to a power socket to upload any files (not that I could do anything with said files). All the time it still charged that is.
I've had to arrange to send my HG20 back now because it won't charge. The battery is, ofcourse exhausted, and while it works fine plugged in, and while the red access light seems convinced that its fully charged when I plug it in (blinks at a regular pace 7 times then stays red) it doesn't have the merest spark of life without the power lead. It's been on charge for 12 hours, after I used it for the 4th time last night without any occurrance or damage to report. I've had it 3 weeks and it's going back to the shop to be checked, thankfully still covered under the 28 day return policy. They either send it back with no fault discovered, and I'm back to my software dilemma, or at some point next week I have the choice between a refund or replacement. In some silly precious way I just want my camera back, but I think I've got to get real and realise this camera is turning into a nightmare for me. I can't afford all the thousands of pounds worth of software. I can't even afford another £80 (not running the risk of non-canon batteries) to try another battery in my unit, as the man from Canon suggested as my only option to repair.
It's all a real shame, and looks like its going to continue wasting valuable recording time, from my perspective as a student. Right now, I'm sort of praying for a refund, and looking for some advice about the sort of camera suited to my needs from people that might know. I'm not trying to put this camera down, it's not a fault I've heard anyone else mentioning, and apart from that issue the problems I've had have only been to do with out-dated software, that I probably could've researched more thoroughly. It's just - I didn't rush into buying it in the first place, and I thought it all turned out to be a lot less easy than I think it needed to be. I suppose unless you have the very latest programs, the HG20 could turn into a real headache. I still think it's an amazing camera...I just can't make the best of it.
Cheers for all the help I took from all your comments so far, I really appreciate that specific forums like this exist.